Soil Resources

Soil Quality and Soil Health

Soil quality is how well soil does what we want it to do. More specifically, soil quality is the capacity of a specific kind of soil to function, within natural or managed ecosystem boundaries, to sustain plant and animal productivity, maintain or enhance water and air quality, and support human health and habitation. Soil Organic Matter and Soil Biology play a major role in soil Quality.

People have different ideas of what a quality soil is. For example:

  • For people active in production agriculture, is may mean highly productive land, sustaining or enhancing productivity, maximizing profits, or maintaining the soil resource for future generations.
  • For consumers, it may mean plentiful, healthful, and inexpensive food for present and future generations.
  • For naturalists, it may mean soil in harmony with the landscape and its surroundings.
  • For the environmentalist, it may mean soil functioning at its potential in an ecosystem with respect to maintenance or enhancement of biodiversity, water quality, nutrient cycling and biomass production.

Healthy soil gives us clean air and water, bountiful crops and forests, productive grazing lands, diverse wildlife and beautiful landscapes.

Soil does all this by performing five essential functions:

  1. Regulating water – soil helps control where rain, snowmelt and irrigation water goes. Water and dissolved solutes flow over the land or into and through the soil.
  2. Sustaining plant and animal life – the diversity and productivity of living things depends on soil.
  3. Filtering potential pollutants – the minerals and microbes in soil are responsible for filtering, buffering, degrading, immobilizing, and detoxifying organic and inorganic materials – including industrial and municipal by-products and atmospheric deposits.
  4. Cycling nutrients – carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus and many other nutrients are stored, transformed and cycled into the soil.
  5. Supporting structures – buildings need stable soil for support and archeological treasures associated with human habitation are protected in soils.

For more Soil Quality and Soil Health information in Colorado:

Contact or Visit your local Conservation District Office.

*Contact info is on each District’s Home Page.

Resource Links


Web Soil Survey

Soil structure and fertility can vary greatly from place-to-place. Maps have been made of the differing soil types from all over the United States by the Natural Resource Conservation Service and are available for you to use. Click on the link below to learn why your area may need more or less water or fertilizer than your neighbor.


Sustainable Small Acreage

A CSU and NRCS partnership publication and website. Many articles and topics about small acreage management.


NRCS: Unlock the Secrets In the Soil

NRCS has launched a national soil health program. Tons of useful information on soil health and increasing your farm’s potential.


Green Cover Seed

Green Cover Seed Co. provides over two dozen species of cover crop seeds, with in depth information on growing conditions, as well as advantages and disadvantages of each specie. A great source for cover crop information and seed orders.